Taco eatery Condado opens today in Short North

Beth Stallings, Columbus Crave

Read the latest issues of Food & Wine or Bon Appetit (or any other national food magazine, really) and it's clear there is one food trending across the country: tacos. We have no shortage of these in Columbus-from authentic styles to gussied-up versions, including those at newcomer Condado, now open in the Short North. (We wrote about the planned opening earlier this month on the Crave blog.)

I got a sneak peek of this black-and-white walled taco and tequila eatery on Friday night. Full disclosure-I was really excited about this opening. I'm familiar with, and a fan of, owner Joe Kahn's previous restaurant Barrio (a Cleveland based taco concept; not the former tapas spot in the Short North), which he sold off to his partners earlier this year.

Condado is loosely based on that taqueria. It also has a Day of the Dead theme with scenes of skull figures painted in black on white walls, and a lengthy, choose-your-own adventure menu. Grab a seat and you'll find three note pads and pencils at your table: a list of salsas, queso and guacamole to start your meal; a build-your-own menu; and one with eight suggested tacos in case you don't want to craft your own. But if you do, you've got a lot of choices. You'll pick a style of tortilla, protein (house-made chorizo, braised beef brisket, pulled pork, shrimp ceviche), toppings (lettuce, jicama slaw, pickled red onions), cheese, salsa and sauce from sweet to spicy. Tacos start at $3 each, with some add-ons costing an extra $1 to $2.

Hands down, the coolest thing about this menu is the tortilla options that go beyond the standard flour or corn. Order the Goody-Goody and you'll get a soft flour tortilla with guacamole, sour cream and crunchy tortilla chips. The Ju-Ju is queso and chorizo sandwiched between a soft flour and crispy corn tortilla shell. And in my personal favorite, the Sweet Lucy, queso and guac are smeared on a soft flour tortilla, then wrapped around a hard corn shell. It's a clever way to layer flavor and keep often oozy toppings in place as you take a bite.

Speaking of, I've got to commend Condado on the way tacos are delivered-wrapped on one end in foil to keep fillings in place and help keep hands clean. It's a needed touch since loaded tacos can get pretty big.

Whatever you do, get the beef brisket-it was juicy and tender and full of flavor. If you're looking for something meat free, I suggest the El Posada ($3 each/$14 box) from the list of suggested taco combos. It's a flour shell with crisp Thai chili-battered tofu, sweet and spicy chipotle honey sauce, jicama slaw, queso fresco, the house salsa and pineapple salsa.

As for drinks, there's no shortage of beer and tequila, and, of course, margaritas in a variety of fresh juice flavors like strawberry, prickly pear and blood orange. The best cocktail I tried was the sweet and spicy Chupacabra ($7) made with Cazadores reposado, club soda, lime juice, fresh mint, serrano peppers and a cayenne pepper and sugar rim.

To celebrate opening day, Condado (1227 N. High St.) will offer $2 tacos and $3 margaritas all night.